(Photo by Shalon Baylis)
Notable Philadelphian cultural artifacts: the Rocky Steps, the curse of Billy Penn (Go Phillies!), the Chinatown Friendship Arch, the rivalry of cheesesteak giants Pat’s and Geno’s.
And then there is the 1948 PCC trolley car in Mt. Airy, thought to be the last trolley from the 1960s to run the route to Willow Grove Park.
More specifically, the trolley car ice cream shop whose owners, after a great run, are saying farewell. But it is not a typical farewell. Ken Weinstein, owner of the trolley car and president of Philly Office Retail, wants to donate the trolley car to a qualified nonprofit with a great idea for how to use the trolley car.
The nonprofit might want to put it in a playground as a place for children to play pretend, he said, or use it as a small event space, or even keep the equipment that is already in place and keep as an ice cream shop. “If it’s an ice cream shop, potentially, it could be a money raiser for a local nonprofit, synagogue, mosque, anybody,” he added.
Weinstein is often involved in reuse projects with real estate as a vehicle for social impact — “I love creating gathering spots for the community” — and as a recipient of four Preservation Alliance Community Awards for uniquely adaptive reuse projects, he knows a thing or two about giving new life to an aged place.
Philly Office Retail specializes in scattered site rehabilitation, which is the opposite of urban renewal. As Weinstein sees it, urban renewal is knocking down blocks of multiple properties and then building up — which alters the fabric of the community and fosters more gentrification.
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“Scattered site rehabilitation is rehabbing one, two, or three properties that are vacant on a given street,” he said, “That way you are improving the neighborhood, not changing it [but[ now people don’t have to live next to a blighted property.” said Weinstein. He believes that is a right — just like the right to jobs, housing, food, and healthcare.
Philly Office Retail encourages others to follow a similar approach in order to improve communities with less gentrification.
Weinstein goes the extra mile to integrate social impact into his team’s operations. He mentioned that when projects like this one happen, the people involved need to consider the community related to the project. He is also practical about the logistics and added, “You want to make sure it works for you and your location. Make sure it is financially viable.”
From experience, Weinstein shares his top three tips for anyone interested in reuse projects and scattered site rehabilitation:
- Sign up for Jumpstart Germantown. A community development program run by Philly Office Retail for local, aspiring developers.
- Be aggressive in taking initiative within this industry. Properties don’t come to you, you must go find and source properties. There is a process of finding out who owns a property and how to approach them, so you must be ready.
- Seek mentoring. “We all made a lot of mistakes in the beginning of our careers, and if you can reduce those mistakes you will be more successful more quickly, “Weinstein said. “And there are people out there who want to help you. Sometimes you got to seek it out.”
Weinstein said he’ll be very happy to hear from nonprofits about how they would plan to reuse the trolley car if they were to be the recipients of his donation.
“I think there are endless ideas that we’re not even thinking about,” he said. “I would encourage people to be creative, find a good use for it, and find a good place to put it. We’d be happy to donate it to that cause.”
Interested nonprofits can get in contact with Weinstein by emailing email@example.com.-30-
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